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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

God’s sovereignty and The Purpose of Prayer

There’s a lot of bad information about prayer floating around. And for someone like me, who is not naturally inclined to hitting his knees, the subject can seem daunting. So it is with great delight that I came across this short survey on prayer at In Christ. Authored by Paul D. Adams, the focus study is how our prayers and God’s sovereignty intersect. He does an excellent job of dispelling the concerns many people have regarding that topic.

But what struck me the most was not the doctrinal aspect, but the practical. I have long since resolved the apparent issue between God’s sovereignty and our prayers; but prayer itself, in my day-to-day living, that is another story entirely. Because of this I was most taken with his section titled, Thinking about Prayer, where I found help by reminded as to why I’m praying in the first place:

  1. Prayer, at its most basic level, is an expression of our dependence upon God.

  2. Our purpose in prayer is to glorify God by seeing him actively accomplish his will here on earth. God, not us, must be the center focus of all our prayers and it is his will and not our own that we must pursue.

  3. Submission and solitude are essential ingredients in Jesus’ prayer life and should be in ours.

  4. Our intention in prayer should be that we recognize how God is working in and through circumstances, rather than merely change them.

  5. Thankfulness for God’s movement in the lives of our brothers and sisters allows us the opportunity to see God’s work in others and helps us avoid self-absorption.

  6. Prayer for knowing God better, gaining special insight into our eternal hope, and for power to live for God’s glory should govern all other requests.

  7. When we pray, we should emphasize a growing love for one another, pure and blameless living, and all that accommodates our maturity in Christ.

  8. A depth of insight into the limitless dimensions of Christ’s love for us can only be gained by prayer.

  9. God is more interested in us than in what we want and he occasionally denies our requests so that his glory and our good will be optimal.

Click here to read the entire post.

--The Catechizer


Friday, June 05, 2015

Today in Church History: Old School-New School Division

On June 5, 1837, the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. separated into Old School and New School divisions.

The split involved a series of issues related to theology, polity, and social reform (especially debate on the Presbyterian response to slavery). The Old School consisted of doctrinal conservatives mainly in the Mid-Atlantic states and the South; the New Schoolers were progressives concentrated in New York, New England, and the western frontier. The 1837 General Assembly, meeting with an Old School majority, abrogated its 1801 Plan of Union with the Congregationalists, it pronounced that action retroactive, and it thereby declared that four New School Presbyterian synods brought in by that plan “to be out of the ecclesiastical connection of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America.”

This Assembly action launched a 32-year division between Old School and New School Presbyterians. In 1869, the two parties were united in the North, soon after the end of the Civil War. In the words of Princeton historian Lefferts Loetscher, the reunion of 1869 resulted in a “broadening church,” where organizational efficiency eclipsed theological precision. By the close of the nineteenth century, northern Presbyterians would experience both significant growth and advancing secularization.

- John Muether


Friday, May 29, 2015

Today in Church History: Synod of Dort

On May 29, 1619, the Synod of Dort was adjourned at the conclusion of its one hundred eightieth session.

Convened on November 13, 1618, in the Dutch city of Dordrecht, the international Reformed council answered the Arminian heresy through its canons, arranged according to five heads of doctrine, that affirmed the sovereignty of God in salvation. Contrary to popular modern impressions, the Canons of Dort were not a “rigid statement of monolithic Calvinism,” according to Robert Godfrey. Instead, they should be understood as “a moderate, inclusive compromise drawing all Calvinists together around the essentials of the faith and preventing the movement from fragmenting over peripheral matters.”

The Canons of Dort joined the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism as the three-fold doctrinal standard in the Dutch Reformed tradition. In analyzing the significance of the Synod, Cornelius Van Til wrote, “The followers of Dort, together with their brethren, the followers of Westminster, alone have the wherewithal with which to proclaim the gospel of the sovereign grace of God at all.”

--John Muether

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Monday, May 25, 2015

Today in History: Memorial Day

Memorial Day, the last Monday of May, is the day we honor Americans who gave their lives in military service.

The holiday was originally called Decoration Day and honored soldiers who had died during the Civil War. Immediately after the war, various towns in the North and South began to set aside days to decorate the soldiers’ graves with flowers and flags. Those earliest memorial observances occurred in Waterloo, New York; Columbus, Mississippi; Richmond, Virginia; Carbondale, Illinois; Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, and several other places.

The first widespread observance of Decoration Day came on May 30, 1868, which Maj. Gen. John A. Logan proclaimed as a day to honor the dead. General James Garfield (later the twentieth U.S. president) gave a speech at Arlington National Cemetery in remembrance of fallen soldiers, saying that “for love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.” Afterward, 5,000 people helped decorate the graves of more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers.

Over the years the day became an occasion to remember the dead in all American wars, and came to be known as Memorial Day.

On the Thursday before Memorial Day, in a tradition known as “Flags-in,” the soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry place small flags before more than a quarter million gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol twenty-four hours a day to make sure each flag remains standing throughout the weekend. On Memorial Day the president or vice president lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the cemetery.

According to the U.S. flag code, American flags should be flown at half-staff until noon on Memorial Day, then raised to the top of the pole. At 3:00 p.m. local time, all Americans are asked to pause for a moment of remembrance.

American History Parade

1539 - Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto lands in Florida.

1806 - In Kentucky, Andrew Jackson kills lawyer Charles Dickenson in a duel for allegedly insulting Jackson’s wife.

1868 - Memorial Day is widely observed for the first time.

1896 - In New York City the first recorded car accident occurs when a motor wagon collides with a bicycle.

1911 - Ray Harroun wins the first Indianapolis 500 auto race.

1922 - The Lincoln Memorial is dedicated in Washington D.C.

1958 - Unidentified soldiers killed in World War II and the Korean War are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The American Patriot's Almanac: Daily Readings on America


Saturday, May 23, 2015

"Stram" and The Feast Day of St. Didier

From Forgotten English . . .


Any sudden, loud and quick sound; so to stram the doors means to shut them with noise and violence. Hence, a bold and unexpected lie that greatly surprises the hearer is called a strammer, and hence also to strammer means to tell great and notorious lies.

Frederick Elworthy’s Specimens of English Dialects; Devonshire Glossary, 1879

The Feast Day of St. Didier

Let me be the first to wish each of my readers a happy feast day of St. Didier!

St. Didier was invoked to protect against liars. A story is told about a preacher who concluded his sermon one Sunday by instructing his congregation to read Mark 17 as background for his next sermon, whose topic would be insincerity. The following week, when he asked how many had read the biblical passage in question, most of the congregants’ hands immediately went up. The preacher looked both shocked and determined, “You are just the people I want to talk to,” he declared, “as there is no ‘Chapter 17’ of Mark!”


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Today in Church History: Harry Emerson Fosdick

On May 21, 1922, Harry Emerson Fosdick preached the famous sermon, “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” from the pulpit of First Presbyterian Church in New York City.
Although a Baptist, Fosdick was serving as the preaching minister of the prominent Fifth Avenue church, and his sermon has been generally regarded as the “Fort Sumter” of the fundamentalist-modernist controversy in the Presbyterian Church. Though ostensibly a plea for tolerance within the northern church, the widely distributed sermon served to warn fundamentalists that they could not “drive out from the Christian churches all the consecrated souls who do not agree with their theory of inspiration.”
In an earlier (1916) letter, J. Gresham Machen had described Fosdick’s preaching as “just dreadful! Just the pitiful stuff about an undogmatic Christianity.” By 1923, Machen would emerge as modernism’s most formidable critic with the publication of Christianity and Liberalism. Fosdick, however, would recede from Presbyterian prominence. In 1925 he resigned his post under pressure, and in 1930 he became pastor of the newly built Riverside Church in New York City.
John Muether


Monday, May 18, 2015

Today in History: In God We Trust

On May 18, 1908, congress mandated that the motto “In God We Trust” be minted on certain coins. The motto evidences one of the reasons why America is different from her peers: our rights come not from the government or the crown, but from God. This is important because if our rights come from God, then the government can’t take them away. Conversely, if our rights come from the government then the government givith, the government taketh away.

In God We Trust is one of the pillars of what columnist and radio talk show host and columnist Dennis Prager calls The American Trinity: E Pluribus Unum (out of many one), In God We Trust, and Liberty. All three of these appear on our currency and all three of these, taken together, define our country’s values—and it is this value system that makes America exceptional, as Mr. Prager explains in this short video:

--The Catechizer


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Today in Church History: Carl McIntire

On May 17, 1906, Carl McIntire was born in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

The son of a Presbyterian minister, McIntire followed his mentor, J. Gresham Machen, to Westminster Seminary (where he graduated in 1931) and into the Orthodox Presbyterian Church at its founding in 1936. Soon, however, he would have a falling out with Machen and the "un-American" theology emanating from Westminster, represented in the likes of R. B. Kuiper, John Murray, Ned Stonehouse, and Cornelius Van Til. In 1937 he led an exodus from the OPC and formed the Bible Presbyterian Church and Faith Theological Seminary, committed to a more rigorous form of separatism.

McIntire's fiery combination of fundamentalist theology and conservative politics expanded steadily in popularity during the height of the America's cold war. His Collingswood, New Jersey, church grew to 1,200 members, his Christian Beacon newspaper claimed 100,000 subscribers, and his "Twentieth Century Reformation Hour" was broadcast on over 600 radio stations. Through these media he took on Catholics, communists, and evangelicals " especially Billy Graham. McIntire also led in the formation of the American Council of Christian Churches (1941) and the International Council of Christian Churches (1948).

Eventually, several church splits (largely stemming from his domineering personality) and legal battles with the FCC would greatly diminish his following. He retired after over 60 years in the ministry, and he died on March 20, 2002, at the age of 95.

John Muether


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Thought of the Day: Assurance

There are two aspects to the assurance of salvation: one is objective in nature and the other is subjective. Our assurance is objective in that the believer’s salvation is secured and guaranteed by God. The subjective aspect is psychological in nature, so it can be adversely affected by the on-going struggle with sin. Another way to put it is that I know that I’m saved, but sometimes I don’t feel that I am.

--The Catechizer

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Reformation Begins with the Pulpit

There is . . . a great need for a reformation of the evangelical pulpit. To reform the pulpit is to reform the church. What is needed is not simply more preaching, but God-enthralled, Christ-magnifying, Spirit-empowered preaching. If this is to occur, the church must regain a high view of the pulpit. As was prevalent during the Reformation, the preaching of the Word must be central in the worship of the church in this generation.

Dr. Steven Lawson points out at the Aquila Report that a second Reformation is desperately needed in our day, and that it will only come if the church has a) a high view of Scripture, b) a high view of God, and c) a high view of the pulpit. In his post, which is an excerpt from his book, The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther, he focuses on the need for a reformation of the Evangelical pulpit.

In an age where pulpits have been replaced by Plexiglas stands fronting mockups of Opra’s TV stage, and where Genevan robes have been ousted for tee shirts, torn jeans, and flip flops, and where exegetical, Christ-centered preaching has given sway to “live your best life now” pep talks, we do indeed have a lot of work to do. The pulpit, though, is where this work needs to start. Dr. Lawson comments on this need:

In this critical hour of church history, pastors must recapture the glory of biblical preaching, as in the days of the Reformation. Preachers must return to true exposition that is Word-driven, God-glorifying, and Christ-exalting. May the Lord of the church raise up a new generation of expositors, men armed with the sword of the Spirit, to once again preach the Word. The plea of Spurgeon, who witnessed the decline of dynamic preaching in his lifetime, must be heard and answered in this day:

We want again Luthers, Calvins, Bunyans, Whitefields, men fit to mark eras, whose names breathe terror in our foemen’s ears. We have dire need of such. Whence will they come to us? They are the gifts of Jesus Christ to the Church, and will come in due time. He has power to give us back again a golden age of preachers, and when the good old truth is once more preached by men whose lips are touched as with a live coal from off the altar, this shall be the instrument in the hand of the Spirit for bringing about a great and thorough revival of religion in the land… . I do not look for any other means of converting men beyond the simple preaching of the gospel and the opening of men’s ears to hear it. The moment the Church of God shall despise the pulpit, God will despise her. It has been through the ministry that the Lord has always been pleased to revive and bless His Churches.

You can read the rest of Dr. Lawson’s prescription here.

--The Catechizer